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Why is Gratitude Important? What the Research Says

Why is gratitude important?

The word gratitude is one that seems to be a part of more conversations than ever before, or at least that’s my observation. Maybe that’s because of trends such as the gratitude journal, which includes opening up the book daily to list what you are thankful for in your day. So, why is gratitude important? Is there merit for giving thanks? Here’s what I uncovered in recent research.

The Relationship between Gratitude and Psychological Well-being

When researchers in 2003 focused on how to measure gratitude objectively, they devised the Gratitude Resentment and Appreciation Test or GRAT. They then used this measure to identify how this trait affects subjective well-being, using two different studies.

From these experiments, the researchers concluded that grateful thinking boosts mood and support the valid nature of GRAT. Moreover, they confirmed that gratitude is an important part of subjective well-being.

In addition to showing a link between gratitude and well-being, this research is good to note because it’s a part of the expanding area of Positive Psychology. This research area focuses on current moods and emotional states relative to how you take note of the positive things in your life or around you.

Another study focused on the link between positive psychological interventions and individual happiness scores over more than 400 participants. They noted a rise in these happy scores when the volunteers delivered a gratitude letter to someone they hadn’t thanked for their kindness.

This gratitude activity had a bigger boost in happiness than any of the other interventions in the study. And benefits were for as long as a month.

Furthermore, some studies show that practicing gratitude can improve physical health too.

why is gratitude important

Studies on Happiness and Physical Health

Before diving into the research, let’s first be clear that we’re not talking causation here. To say that giving thanks makes you healthier isn’t a simple statement as there are so many other factors going on in people’s lives that could affect that relationship. Instead, researchers have begun to look at whether people who practice gratitude benefit from a boost in health.

One such example is a recent study by Portland State University. The participants were acute care nurses, and the research focus was on their satisfaction with patient care. Interestingly, the researchers found that when nurses were thanked more often on the job, that predicted fewer headaches, improved sleep, and better eating habits.

The researchers attributed that relationship to an increase in nurses’ feelings of satisfaction at work. It’s clear in this instance that in a very stressful environment like nursing, receiving gratitude was correlated with an increased focus on self-care.

And that’s a positive thing. Both for the individual and for the organization that will likely see their nurses taking fewer sick days than before.

Limitations of the Research

Of course, these are only a few studies on the positive changes associated with gratitude. So, don’t take this discussion as a sweeping gesture about why gratitude is important.

But, I will say that for me, keeping a gratitude journal helped me during a period when my depression was extremely low. And that leads me to my next point.

Gratitude Journaling as Part of a Larger Treatment Approach

I also want to clarify that keeping a gratitude journal can be a valuable part of a depression or anxiety treatment plan, rather than the only solution. In fact, I encourage you to see a therapist in coordination with journaling as personally that really helped me!

You might also consider seeing a doctor about pharmaceutical solutions, depending on your specific situation – but never take drugs not prescribed for you or take more than instructed by your doctor.

What I’m saying here is that journaling to enhance relationships, for better self-awareness, and other goals, is one part of the puzzle to consider rather than being the only thing I suggest looking at as an option for psychological and physical health. As I said, a gratitude journal helped me improve my thoughts about myself, in coordination with therapy and a prescribed anti-depressant.

Plus, Every Person is Different

Also, please know that as each of us is unique; what works for one person to lift mood or stay healthy under stress will not necessarily work in the same way for someone else, and vice versa. So, find what works best for you, in coordination with a mental health professional and/or a GP.

Thus, it makes sense to have different options to work toward a better quality of life. While you might practice gratitude through writing letters, another person might use a journaling app.

Yup, there’s an app for that! Simply download a gratitude journal to your phone. Using hiMoment, for example, you can use a guided journal of text and photos to combat stress and encourage a confidence boost. It tracks moods and habits to help you be more self-aware of the uplifting moments around you.

One Final Note about Why is Gratitude Important

I wanted to save this point until last! There are many things to appreciate in this world. And for me, it is my parents and my partner. They love me unconditionally, and that gives me strength. The strength of character that comes when you are grateful is amazing, and it can, in turn, help all those around you. Spread the good vibes!

How do you practice gratitude?

59 thoughts on “Why is Gratitude Important? What the Research Says”

  1. I’ve never thought about it. I think it’s part of my upbringing to be thankful and say, “no,thank you” “Yes, thank you.” – But that’s habit. So, if I really think about it – I live in gratitude to the point that it sometimes turns to guilt. Thank you for this post. I missed it but @cherrylsblog directed me here …and now I realize feeling guilty for good fortune and hard lessons is counterproductive! 😊

    1. Guilt is a powerful emotion, isn’t it, Mel? And it can become so commonplace that it’s not even realized… It means a lot to me that you had that awakening moment here xx And thanks to Cherryl too for the mention!

  2. I really appreciate your words about gratitude and have felt that being grateful does personally make me a happier person. It gives me a full heart that I can than spread to others. Thank you for this post on an important topic. 😁

  3. Absolutely a great read! I have been in a really bad place for over a year, and lately I have been looking up ways to head in a more positive direction. Gratitude has definitely been something I have been missing in my life (I tend to think the worst in situations and suffer from catastrophic thinking/spiraling). I love the idea of keeping a gratitude journal, and will definitely be checking out the app!
    Much love!

    1. It takes time to change our mindset but it IS possible and it’s a great start that you’re looking for ways to do that :) By knowing your thought patterns to begin with, you’re in a place to change – and I’m cheering you on!

  4. I love this article and will share it with my team. I work as a special educator in a behavioral health setting, and we spend a great deal of time talking with our teens about the connection between their outlook on life and their physical well-being. As a scientist (in a former life), I appreciate the psychological and medical rationale for a gratitude-filled life, and, as a licensed missionary, I know the spiritual benefit of living a life of gratefulness. I just wrote a post with tips for teaching children and adults how to learn gratitude. I hope you’ll visit and comment. Peace. ~ Kim

    1. Hi Kim, thank you for your generosity of sharing the post on gratitude with your team. Reaching more people is my goal as I want to share the importance of inspiration and motivation in making this world a better place. By sharing the post, you’re a key part of that positivity! Your background speaks highly of your thoughtfulness and insights into mindset. I’ll check out your post, yes xx

  5. I’ve been practicing daily gratitude for almost a year now, and it really has made a different in my mindset. I also listen to a couple of podcasts that focus on gratitude. I’m even going to be incorporating the practice into my teaching this fall!

    1. Firstly, I love that you’ll return to teaching in the fall! Secondly, I am smiling at your inclusion of gratitude in the coursework, given its many benefits. Perhaps one day you will take your teaching online and then I can be a student of yours too xx

  6. Thank you for this wonderful post, Christy. I think we all have much to be grateful for, much that we shouldn’t take for granted. Family and friends are just the beginning.

  7. Amen, Christy. ❤ Excellent tips here on how to re-direct our focus and *find* ways to be thankful and/or grateful. I stress the word find there, because lets face it, sometimes it’s harder than others to shift our mentalities and gear more toward the positive. Some days are just a wee bit rough ;)

    Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Keeping a gratitude journal is a powerful part of recovering some happiness and joy in your life. It’s only just recently that I’ve been working on thinking about what I’m thinking about with more consistency. The saying, “You are where your attention takes you” is so very poignant and true. Being aware of our thoughts and feelings enables us to take a hold of them before they take a hold of us. And oh how easy that is!

    That simple, yet profound, act of choosing to be grateful – it really does take us from blah to blessed in one moment. Sending blessings & love your way, friend!

    1. As you say, Holly, it takes conscious effort to turn around our thoughts to be more positive and some days it’s harder to do that than others! It’s funny isn’t it that we are thinking about thinking… but the power of it all when we do so is a BOOM moment :) Have a wonderful weekend! Blessings to you xx

  8. Melissa Seifrit

    I try to give gratitude by being an active listener with eye contact so that they know I am present in the conversation, perhaps making a persons day with a compliment and for me even a Hug.

  9. I believe that showing gratitude can have a good affect on your well-being.There are so many things we can be thankful for. Wonderful post, sis!

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